Parliament’s press chief acted lawfully and for the right reasons when he suspended the parliamentary accreditation of multiple reporters in 2016, the National Assembly’s press office said on Tuesday, in reaction to a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) declaring the move a violation of the right to the freedom of expression.
The Strasbourg court said in its Tuesday decision that because
the six reporters representing various media outlets had no mechanism to appeal the suspension of their accreditation, it constituted a breach of the European Convention on Human Rights.
In a statement, the National Assembly’s press office acknowledged that the suspension of the reporters’ accreditation had been a “disproportionate” sanction due to a lack of procedural guarantees to parliament’s press rules.
It noted that the reporters had turned to the ECtHR in October 2016 after parliament’s press chief had suspended their accreditation to cover the national assembly’s plenary sessions over their deliberate violation of the parliamentary speaker’s instructions regarding press coverage of the legislative body’s sessions.
The court rejected the petitioners’ claims for non-material damages of 5,000 euros each, the office said, adding that the Hungarian state had only been ordered to cover the case’s legal expenses.
The office said the ECtHR’s ruling had acknowledged that protecting the orderly conduct of parliamentary business and the rights of lawmakers were legitimate reasons for restricting journalist access to certain areas in Parliament.
In its review of whether the decision to suspend the reporters’ accreditation was proportionate to their breach of the speaker’s order, the court concluded that the procedural rules applied in the case of the reporters had not specified the duration of their suspension, nor had it offered them a way to present their arguments.
The court acknowledged that the relevant rules had since been amended by introducing a time limit for the suspension of parliamentary accreditation, elements needed for assessing the sanctions that could be applied as well as the possibility for journalists to appeal their suspensions.
The ECtHR also acknowledged that parliaments had to regulate conduct within their premises, for instance by designating areas for recording, the office said.
The ruling does not require the National Assembly to review its regulations regarding parliamentary press converage, it added.